Smallpox Epidemic, Part I

Indianapolis Journal - 1900-01-16 (Smallpox epidemic)IN AN EPIDEMIC FORM

Smallpox Has Broken Out At And
Near Clay City, Ind.

Secretary Hurty Telegraphs Governor
Mount of the Conditions – Con-
fluent Smallpox

Smallpox is raging in epidemic form in Clay City, a small mining town in Clay county. The town has a population of six or seven hundred and it is estimated that over one-third of it is stricken with the disease. Many of the cases have assumed the confluent form. Dr. J. N. Hurty, the secretary of the State Board of Health, at present in Clay City, has telegraphed the boards of health of the adjoining counties warning them of the prevalence of the disease, and everything possible is being done to prevent its spread.

A few days ago an epidemic resembling smallpox appeared in Clay City, but as the disease was very mild the local physicians believed it to be a malignant form of chicken-pox and the patients were treated accordingly. The disease, however, began to spread very rapidly and it was not long until it was estimated that there were in the neighborhood of three hundred cases. The local board of health in Clay City became alarmed and telegraphed for Dr. Hurty, who is an expert in diagnosing the disease. After an examination of the first patient with whom he came in contact, Dr. Hurty at once pronounced the disease to be smallpox. When the citizens of the town became aware that the disease had been diagnosed as smallpox, they became frantic with fear and excitement, and many rushed home and began packing their effects with the intention of escaping from the town, but they were too late. Acting under the instructions of Dr. Hurty the officials immediately began the enforcement of the quarantine laws and no citizen who had come in contact with the disease was permitted to leave. All incoming and outgoing mails are being disinfected and nothing that would be likely to transmit the disease is allowed to be shipped away from the town. It is said that there are many cases in Owen county just over the line from Clay county, which have probably been contracted by exposure to the disease in Clay City. Greene county also reports a great many cases of so-called chicken-pox, but the cases have exactly the same symptoms as those in Clay county.

The boards of health of the various adjoining counties will hold meeting to-day and take some definite action to prevent the disease from spreading.

At various time chicken-pox has been reported to the State Board of Health, but each time there has always been a diversity of opinion among the physicians as to the diagnosis of the disease, some insisting that it was a mild form of smallpox and others maintaining that it was nothing but chicken-pox. Previous to the present epidemic in Clay City there had been no fatalities in any cases reported and very few of them had even been serious, so that a reasonable doubt might have arisen as to the correct diagnosis of the case. The confluent form of the disease in the epidemic at Clay City which often results fatally, removes the least shadow of a doubt that might exist that the disease is smallpox.

Last night Dr. Hurty telegraphed Governor Mount, notifying him of the conditions at Clay City.

City Board Will Act.

Dr. Clark, of the City Board of Health, was asked last night what precautions the Indianapolis Board of Health will take to prevent any possibility of the disease becoming prevalent in this city. He answered that if the epidemic in Clay county was as serious as Dr. Hurty reported the board will hold a meeting to-day to devise plans to prevent anyone entering the city who might have come in contact with the disease there, and also to take up the question of what would be done with the patients providing smallpox should break out in the city. He added, however, that Dr. Hurty no doubt will take all necessary precautions to prevent the disease from spreading further than the locality to which it is now confined.

“In An Epidemic Form,” The Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana), 16 January 1900, p. 8, col. 4; digitial image, Chronicling America ( : accessed 6 December 2014).

1 thought on “Smallpox Epidemic, Part I

  1. davidmadison1942

    Just four years before my father was born. Six or seven hundred people…about a third the size of Kentland.

    ” to devise plans to prevent anyone entering the city who might have come in contact with the disease there” I wonder just how they would do that.


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